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Migrants Before the Law: Contested Migration Control in Europe

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This book traces the practices of migration control and its contestation in the European migration regime in times of intense politicization. The collaboratively written work brings together the perspectives of state agents, NGOs, migrants with precarious legal status, and their support networks, collected through multi-sited fieldwork in eight European states: Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and Switzerland. The book provides knowledge of how European migration law is implemented, used, and challenged by different actors, and of how it lends and constrains power over migrants’ journeys and prospects. An ethnography of law in action, the book contributes to socio-legal scholarship on migration control at the margins of the state.

“This book is a major achievement. A remarkable and insightful study that through close analysis of the practices of migration control in 8 European countries (Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and Switzerland) provides powerful new insight into the power of the state at its margins and over those that are marginalised.”
- Andrew Geddes, Director, Migration Policy Centre, European University Institute

Migrants Before the Law provides a much-needed account of the dizzying legal labyrinth that migrants navigate as they seek to survive in Europe.  Based on multi-sited ethnography in detention centres, migration offices, police stations, and non-governmental organizations as well as on interviews with key government actors, advocates, and migrants themselves, this book explores the systems of control and forms of migrant precarity that operate along Europe’s internal borders, in multiple national and transnational contexts.  Readers will come away with a deepened understanding of the perverse workings of power, the ways that the uncertainty and unpredictability of law foster both despair and hope, the degree to which the immigration “crisis” is both manufactured and experienced as real, and the ingenuity of migrants themselves in the face of Kafkaesque state practices.”

- Susan Bibler Coutin, Professor of Criminology, Law and Society and Anthropology, University of California, Irvine, USA

Migrants Before the Law is an excellent exposition of the dispersed sites of the law and the hinges and junctions through which this apparatus is actualized in the lives of migrants facing deportation, contesting their status as illegal migrants or seeking to regularize their precarious position.  Written with great sensitivity and an eye to minute details this book is also an achievement in furthering the method of collaborative ethnography and new ways of staging comparisons.”

- Veena Das, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University, USA

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